Categories
Christian Blog

Answer to the Man

When I started my first job at 16, dad said to me on my way out the door, “Answer to the man.” “What do you mean?”, I asked. “Son, when you’re on the boss’ time, do what he says without complaining.” I took my dad’s advice that day, and it made all the difference.

The Apostle Paul, in prison and facing execution, said something similar to his young apprentice, Timothy.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

I’ve never been a soldier, but as a teacher on an army post, I rub shoulders with people in the military every day. One thing I’ve noticed is there’s an Army regulation for almost everything a soldier does. I once asked a military friend, “Don’t you think a ten point checklist to park and secure a combat vehicle is a little over-the-top?”

“What I think is irrelevant. I do my job and follow orders. Anything else is an indulgence.”

*SSG McMurtry (Just a cool Hollywood sounding name. Not the real guy’s.)

Impressive. “But what if there aren’t specific orders or regulations for something?,” I asked. “How do you respond?” “That’s when you follow the commander’s intent,” he said.

He explained that, in a combat situation, all written orders are assumed to be fluid. No plan survives intact once there’s contact with the enemy. The commander’s intent is a short statement written in bold print that essentially says, “Whatever happens, this is the most important thing to accomplish.”

VERY impressive. I started looking for commander’s intent statements in the Bible.

I found Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians, who were living under intense persecution.

Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:27

And Jesus’ charge to His earliest followers:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19

Answering to the man (God) can be challenging. If there was only an app called FaceofGodBook, with those little red numbers over the icon–you know, messages from heaven?

However, we do have the Bible, and we know what Jesus did, and we also have the Holy Spirit. And that’s enough to know the Commander’s intent.

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Hooah!

Categories
Christian Blog honesty

Talking Face to Face Versus Facebook

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

Confession: I used to spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. But I didn’t even realize when too much was enough–until my wife said, “David, you’re on your phone ALL the time!” So I checked my usage. Sure enough, I spent an average of 2 hours 20 minutes every day–on Facebook alone!

I ended up deactivating, and then deleting my account.

Yes, there were withdrawal symptoms, but after about a week I stopped constantly checking my phone for those little red numbers. FOMO was eclipsed by FOMU–Fear Of Messing Up.

Being off Facebook has been a mixed blessing. We’ve missed a few funerals; yep, it was on Facebook, and we don’t take the newspaper. It’s also harder to keep up with some of our family members.

But here’s something on the positive side: being off FB has encouraged me to have more face to face conversations–especially with people who aren’t exactly like me.

And when someone is right in front of you, you benefit from tone of voice, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues to help prevent misunderstandings. Plus, unlike when I was on social media, I’m not as tempted to quickly (and often inappropriately) respond to a perceived slight.

The Original Social Validation Feedback Loop

The Christian love (agape) found in the early church was deep and purposeful. (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). Such mutual benevolent concern is hard to find in cyberspace, where interactions are often superficial and impulsive.

When Christ Himself was asked about the greatest commandment, He responded, Love God first, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28-31) Loving your neighbor was not a recent rule, (Leviticus 19:18) but by the time of the New Testament, most folks held a rather narrow view. Jesus challenges this thought with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

He makes it crystal clear that any person in need is our neighbor.

On FB, my ‘neighbors’ tended to be people who were a lot like me; there’s nothing wrong with that, but it felt like an echo chamber. It just wasn’t a good place for me to try to live by the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).

I simply share my story, and am not judging you. Facebook took up too much of my life, so I quit. Perhaps you’re stronger and can handle it.

God’s best to you.

Categories
Christian Living Discipleship

Drawn to the Light

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

One night this summer, I accidentally left the garage door up with the lights turned on. It was three hours later before I discovered my oversight. As I opened the door that leads into the garage from the laundry room, I was greeted with a surreal sight: dozens of moths! They were on the walls, hanging from the ceiling and covering both vehicles like polka dots.

They all looked similar to this one.

I decided the best thing to do was to simply turn off the lights and shut all the doors. The moths will go nowhere in the dark, I thought: “I’ll deal with it in the morning.”

But early the next day when I opened the door, there were just a few little brown insects to be seen. Only when I walked to the other side of the garage did I discover what happened overnight.

Most of the moths had landed on the floor—fanning out from a night light. It was the only source of luminescence in the room, shining only 0.4 watts, yet most of them found their way too it!


This begs the question, just how much of God’s light does a person need?

King David wrote of God’s Word being a lamp for his feet and a light for his path (Psalm 119:105). This doesn’t sound like the airport runway lights I’d prefer, but it must be enough to find The Way, or David wouldn’t have said it.

Jesus Himself spoke about how just a little bit of the right stuff is a big deal in the kingdom of God. Remember the parable He told about having faith like a mustard seed (Mark 4:30)?

As an amatuer bread baker, it still amazes me just how little yeast is needed for a whole batch of dough! “Surely, one packet isn’t enough,” I tell my wife every time. But the balls of dough keep rising until they triple in size! Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to such an experience (Matthew 13:33).

As a child of God, out on life’s ocean, it’s often hard to find my bearings. And when I can’t see but a few feet in front of me, it’s tempting to pray for lighthouses, fog horns and flares–something BIG to show me The Way. However, like He did with Elijah, God often speaks in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13).

I suppose the moral of the moths is to tune in to the light of God we have, no matter how small. Flood light faith isn’t always needed.

God’s best to you in your journey.

Categories
courage Hope

What Happened to Hope?

“hope” by @polsifter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I rolled up early one morning last week to one of my favorite running routes on the U.S. Army post where I work. It’s a fairly straight, flat road lined with mature shade trees next to a huge field. Just on the other side of the trees there’s a little creek. This particular morning, a light fog blanketed everything. It was the picture of serenity.

However, despite the setting, I started my run brooding over a stressful situation at work that seemed to have no feasible solution. But then I heard something.

Over the hum of the nearby interstate, an unseen group of basic trainees was calling out cadence. I pictured them running in formation as they chanted together at the top of their lungs:

🎶“Everywhere we go-oh, people wanna know-o, who we are, where we come from, so we tell them who we are…”🎶

These aren’t basic trainees, but I imagine it looked something like this.

As the sound of the soon to be soldiers faded into the distance, my sinking thoughts were buoyed by a fresh revelation:

If they can do that, I can do this!

The majority of basic trainees are miles from home—many for the first time— and dealing with a new “normal”, one where drill instructors make ALL the decisions. Homesick and uncertain what’s coming next, these brave young people must stick together to survive the next 10 weeks. Their Esprit de corps, the devotion they have toward each other and the group as a whole, is literally their life-line.

Perhaps the title of this piece should be, “What happened to hope?” Okay, I already changed it; my first one was pretty lame.😀

Anyway, this is what I heard in the soldiers’ chanting: hope for the future. But for the world at large this idea is no longer in vogue.

It’s painfully clear these days that (to many) hope is like a wind up toy with an ever-weakening spring. A quick check at thesaurus.com confirms it. Synonyms for hope include, anticipation and expectation, but also fool’s paradise and pipe dream.

However, for the Christian, hope is as certain as the character of God.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24-25

I love the metaphor, “spur one another on.” It’s like every believer is calling out in formation with all their might, “MORE LOVE AND GOOD DEEDS!!”

These days there are plenty of reasons for a child of God to lose hope, but none of them are good ones.

Now is not the time for swerving, by God! And I mean that literally, not sacrilegiously. 😁🙏

Here are a few more of my favorite “hold on to hope” scriptures. Please share some of yours, if you’d like.


“The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Hold on to HOPE!

Categories
Christian Blog vulnerability

Dog Gone It!

Photo by David Fanatan on Unsplash

We have a dog in our neighborhood that’s a fence jumper. Every so often, even with the gate shut, he just appears in the backyard. He’s friendly enough, but we worry what might happen if he gets in when our two little dogs are out.

We thought we had the problem solved. Our super-athletic trespasser liked to jump the one section of our fence that was four feet tall, so we replaced it with a six foot wooden privacy fence. We now have a tall fence around our whole backyard. “That should do it,” I told my wife.

But wouldn’t you know, one day we looked out and there he was: standing on the back patio laughing at himself in the window. What kind of dog gets over a six foot privacy fence?!

This has to be yet another metaphor for life. We build fences around our circumstances to control them. And then, when something breaches our puny perimeter, we build better ones.

Yet sometimes, no matter how hard we try, IT still happens. They make LifeProof cases for phones, but not for the human condition. And when something jumps the ‘fence’ and laughs at itself in the window, it’s easy to feel violated, unsafe and unsure about the future.

Enter God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, who most certainly understands humans.

He became one.

Psalm 139 makes it crystal clear: the Lord knows more about you and me than all the data mining companies of Silicon Valley combined!

As it turns out, He’s a fence builder too.

You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Psalm 139:5

King David doesn’t mention sideways, but surely the Almighty has that covered as well.😀🙏

From the sounds of Psalm 139, and other similar scriptures, God never looks in on one of His children and says, “Well, would you look at that?!”

So friend, can we agree that whatever we’re facing right now—be it good, bad or ugly—God saw it coming and knows what to do about it?

His Word is His bond.


Here are a few go-to promises I turn to when I’m ‘on the fence’ about God’s protection and provision:

“What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

Please share your favorite scripture about God’s watch-care over us, if you’d like.


For another story about setting boundaries, that also involves an uninvited animal on our property, please see “Cat”astrophe.

Categories
Peace Self Care

God’s Psychiatry

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 39:18 (NIV

In 2007, after a second bout with cancer, my dad died. I realize this isn’t the most engaging starting sentence, but please stay with me.


A few months after dad passed, my wife and I were visiting with mom in the home they shared. Longing to reconnect with my father in some way, I ended up in the workshop out back, where he and I bonded over many a project.

I walked out and bumped open the door, which had been closed so long it was stuck shut. The work bench was cluttered with tools and an assortment of nuts and bolts. Dad must have left them when he no longer felt like puttering around the shop. “I NEED to tidy things up,” I thought outloud; “He had a place for everything and everything in its place.”

But I couldn’t. I simply didn’t know where all the stuff went. Standing there holding a mason jar full of orphaned stove bolts, I started to cry. But then I looked up and saw Big Mouth Billy Bass on the wall, a gift from one of my father’s fishing buddies.

I reached up and gave Billy’s red button a push, just for old-time’s sake, and he came to life: flapping his tail and singing that famous Bobby McFaren song—“Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

But here’s the miracle, that silly fish always started at the beginning, but not today. This time God fast forwarded to the part I really needed to hear–where Billy raises his head, looks at you and sings, “🎶Don’t Worry, Be Happy🎶.”

The Lord (and my dad) wanted me to drop the mantle of over- responsibility I’d taken upon myself. It was a most comforting feeling.

Have you had a, “Big Mouth Billy Bass” type encounter with God?

I’d love to hear about it!

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you.

Matthew 5:4 (MSG)

PS: today would have been dad’s 85th birthday.

Categories
Christian Blog forgiveness

Weeds Are Flowers Too

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”

A.A. Milne

If the guys on my dorm hallway at seminary had been the twelve disciples, then *Sean Fitzpatrick would have been Peter. Too say that ‘Surly Sean,’ as he was known, was rough around the edges is putting it kindly. Brash, quick tempered and occasionally foul-mouthed, he was far from the typical divinity student.
Sean looked like a shorter version of Tom Selleck, from the show Magnum P.I.–right down to the shorts and Hawaiian shirt. And just like the character on television, he was always ready with a playful insult.

I asked one of the other guys on the hall, “What’s with this dude?!” My friend told me that Sean came to seminary after his father died of a heart attack while they were on a hunting trip. The grieving young man was adrift, so his pastor suggested he come cross-country to attend seminary–thinking it might help the healing process. But Sean only lasted one semester; training to be a pastor was NOT his calling. This was no surprise to the rest of us.

Nevertheless, as I got to know my fractious neighbor, I realized he was a true brother in Christ who just happened to come from a different place than I did. Sean told me of growing up in Philadelphia, where Irish kids like him walked down the middle of the street to avoid being mugged. It was unimaginable, to a small town boy like me, who grew up where people seldom locked their doors.

We lost touch after he left seminary, but something told me Sean was back in Philly. So three years later, I looked him up. He was married and a recent father to a baby daughter. I reminded him that the last time we’d talked he insulted me. I won’t repeat what he said–this is a G-rated blog–but to him, these were terms of endearment. However, three years later, he couldn’t believe he’d talked to me like that! Clearly, Surly had sweetened. He even thanked me for being a good friend during a tough time in his life.

There are lots of ‘Seans’ out there, people who aren’t exactly like you or me, people who are hurting. And God loves them too. Remember one of the nicknames Jesus’ enemies gave Him? They called him a ‘Friend of Sinners’ (Matthew 7:43).

When Sean showed up at a seminary, he was like Zacchaeus in the Bible, up in a tree looking for Jesus. But most of us pious would be pastors avoided him, because we thought weeds aren’t really flowers. We were wrong.

For the son of man came to seek and save the lost.

Luke 19:10

*not his real name.

Categories
Christian Blog Uncategorized

What was that, God?

Photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

I once heard a story about a little boy who misheard part of the Lord’s Prayer. Where it says, “forgive us our trespasses,” he thought the people at church were saying, “forgive us our trash baskets.”

There’s actually a term for this. According to Dictionary.com, a word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of another word or phrase is called a mondegreen. In many cases, the misinterpretation gives the original phrase a new meaning. Like in the song, Purple Haze, when Jimmy Hendrix sings, “Scuse me while I kiss the sky,” but the listener hears, “Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”

I wonder, do mondegreens sometimes happen when God speaks to us? After all, He doesn’t think or work the same way we do (Isaiah 55:9), so it stands to reason that His instructions could easily be lost in translation.

God: “You have enough stuff.”
Me: “I need a new truck!”

Or maybe we clearly hear what God says, but creatively interpret the meaning. This mistake cost Saul his kingdom, in 1 Samuel chapter 13, when he offered up burnt offerings to God as a stand-in for the prophet Samuel.

Something like this happened to me the year I turned forty, but not with such dire results. I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “It’s time to get the music started.” I interpreted this to mean that I needed to begin a Christian concert ministry, record albums, and pitch my songs to Nashville publishers. To me, it was all or nothing–throwing the entirety of God’s resources up in the air at once.

But the Lord had something else in mind. He opened a door for my wife and me to share music in nursing homes and assisted living centers, making seniors feel better by singing their favorite hymns. My own gospel songs never made it to Nashville, but they still touched people–a few at a time. I know, because they told me so. Clearly, God’s plan to, “get the music started,” meant something more like passing out a bag of nickels one at time, rather than my grandiose ideas.

So that’s my, “What was that, God?” story.

Have you ever misheard God or misinterpreted what He said to you? If so, please share. I’d love to hear about it.

https://davidsdailydose.org/2020/09/05/what-was-that-god/

Categories
change Christian Blog

Surfing Uncertainty

“Reality: what a concept!”

Robin Williams

About ten years ago, a severe ice storm crippled our area. Widespread power outages left many without electricity for days. Those without backup generators, that was most of us, were forced to adjust to reality–finding alternative sources for modern conveniences.

Not surprisingly, the people who coped best during this time were those who grew up in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many of them spent their childhood creating things at home that the rest of us think only come from a store.

For example, during the power outage, my neighbors (a couple in their 80’s) simply put their perishable food items in a box on their back porch. The temperature didn’t rise above 30 degrees for a week, so they were good. Why didn’t I think of that? Another older couple had no heat, so they warmed up a cast iron skillet on their gas stove top to create a radiator!

When in a crisis, it’s a good idea to consult someone who has survived a few. Actor Alan Alda, 84–of T.V. show M*A*S*H fame–was recently asked in an interview how optimistic he was for his children and grandchildren’s future. Here’s what he told AARP magazine:

“With the world changing so rapidly, there’s no point in being optimistic or pessimistic about anything. You’ve just got to surf uncertainty, because it’s all we get.”

Alan Alda

Wow, that’s a wise way to look at life! But how do you surf uncertainty? Does this idea come with lessons?

We need only look to scripture for the answer.


Think of all the famous Bible heroes who successfully dealt with difficult circumstances. Many of these are mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the Hall of Faith. These ladies and gentlemen surfed uncertainty, just as Alan Alda advises, and we know HOW they did it.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (emphasis mine)

We see this scripture in live action when the apostle Peter went surfing with Jesus–well, kinda sorta (Matthew 14:22-31). Remember the story? Peter walked on the water to meet Christ, but started to sink when he realized he was riding a huge wave; he took his eyes off Jesus and almost whiped-out. But, just for a moment, our fisherman friend was surfing–with God!

The world only offers two options: sink or swim. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can walk on the top with Him.

Surf’s Up!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

https://davidsdailydose.org/2020/08/29/god-surfing/

Categories
Christian Blog courage

The Source of Her Strength

“Picnic” by pigpogm is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In a recent Our Daily Bread devotional, Deep Rooted Faith, Xochitl Dixon tells the story of a 600 year old oak tree that stood next to a church in New Jersey. The tree had survived many storms (including several hurricanes) due to its extensive root system. It’s deep vertical taproot supplied strength and nourishment, while it’s horizontal roots spread beyond the tree’s canopy. Says Dixon, “Most of the life-giving growth occurred beneath the surface.”


My mom and dad were happily married for 49 years. Like many of their generation, my father made most of the decisions. He did the driving, arranged for major purchases, etc. The majority of the time, my mother deferred to him.

When dad died in 2007, the rest of the family wondered how mom would fare. Would she wilt under the strain of making ALL the decisions?

We shouldn’t have worried. After a period of adjustment, my mother began to blossom. She painted her bedroom sunflower yellow, learned to use the riding lawn mower, and traded the family van for a cute little SUV.

For nearly 50 years she let my father lead, yet all the while her tenacious fortitude was just beneath the surface. The secret of her strength was her deep roots in God. Mom was not overt in sharing her Christian faith, but the source of her strength was obvious to all who knew her. And when the time came for her to join my father in heaven, she did not seem to be afraid.

A few months after my mother died, I picked up her favorite Bible. Tucked within the pages was one of her “taproot” scriptures–written on a 3″ x 5″ card in her perfect penmanship.

What is one of your tap root scriptures? Please share, if you’d like.

Here’s one of mine:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)